With a new college basketball season underway, fans have got a fresh crop of players to be entertained by who will also go on to decide how things will pan out at the end of the year.
As always, the season will have a different look from the one that came before it as a number of players have moved on to the pros. Last term’s NCAA Tournament finalists, Baylor and Gonzaga, have lost their best players to the NBA - their First Team All-Americans are playing on a professional level now, which leaves room for a new set of young stars to step up.
Of course, there aren’t many who have taken the nation by surprise as most of the top college players in the game right now came in with burgeoning reputations. Here’s a list of some of the best.
Paolo Banchero - Duke
The 6ft 10in forward didn’t have to play college ball this season but opted for a year at Duke in spite of that. He went into the season with consideration as the No.1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft given his immense skill.
Banchero boasts the talent of a guard at his height. He’s a hefty forward who can create his own shots on isolation plays, shoot from mid-range and have his way in the paint. He certainly seems a player who could succeed in the NBA right now and Duke is pretty fortunate to have him playing for its program instead, though he was charged for DWI last week.
Chet Holmgren - Gonzaga
Chet Holmgren doesn’t immediately strike you as an aggressive player - he’s pretty wiry at 7ft - but it wouldn’t take you very long to see it when you watch him play. His game is definitely not representative of a skinny player and he’s one of the most impressive rim protectors on the collegiate scene.
His involvement with Gonzaga is one of the main reasons the Bulldogs are the favorites for the National Championship where the NCAAB picks are concerned, with Gonzaga 7/1. UCLA and Purdue are behind, both at 12/1 for reasons of their own.
While a proper defensive asset, Holmgren is even more impressive on the other side of the ball and looks to be the type of big man who could dribble, pass and shoot. Should he show some consistency on all of these fronts, Gonzaga will have little trouble making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament and he could be in the running for No.1 overall next year.
Johnny Juzang - UCLA
The guard did not stand out at Kentucky but has since become one of the top players in the country on the back of a transfer to UCLA. He fired the Bruins’ run to the Final Four last season and will look to improve on that this season.
While he isn’t the most athletic guard around, Juzang is one of the biggest scoring threats in the NCAA and can shoot from anywhere on the court. When that's coupled with a step-back, it could free him up for uncontested jumpers at will.
Hunter Dickinson - Michigan
The Michigan center plays true to the model of the traditional big man and made easy work of single coverage in the post as a freshman. Standing at 7ft, Dickinson possesses the strength to simply claim his position on the block and has a sweet lefty hook shot to embellish that. His passing could use some improvement as he would be an even bigger threat if he can pass out of double teams but he has some time to work on that.
He also isn’t a very mobile defender yet is an excellent shot blocker. Michigan’s chances of making it to the Final Four certainly lie with him and, if he can improve on some of his weaknesses, it could mean success for Juwan Howard.
Ochai Agbaji - Kansas
Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji was supposed to have been a redshirt in his freshman year but Bill Self changed plans and had him play midway through the term. Since then, he’s been a revelation and is off to quite the hot start this season.
He’s now in a great position to be successful, playing for a program that was one of the highest-ranked coming into the season. The 6ft 4in guard could attack the basket with ease and his shooting from long range seems to improve every year. He’s also very committed on defense and opposing guards have difficulty getting past him.
If his shooting undergoes more improvement this year, Agbaji could really be too much to handle.
Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
Jaden Ivey is tipped to be a lottery pick in the next NBA Draft after being ranked 87th in the country when he got to Purdue - that’s providing he makes a big splash in his sophomore year, which is very possible.
Ivey, who is 6ft 4 in, is a speedy guard who could get up in transition and shake a defender off. He’s also a talent defensively and had a near five percent steal rate last season. His shooting from outside could be better, though. And, if he could make that happen, it could turn out to be a successful campaign for both him and Purdue.